By Jared Story
Originally Published in The Times - Online February 23, 2015

The Raiders Jr. Hockey Club is thankful that goaltender Ryan Brown is minding their net this season.

After Brown started three games for the Raiders in 2013-14, the team, happy with their then goaltending tandem of Mat McIntosh and Brenden Fiebelkorn, released the first-year Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League goalie, loaning him to the St. Boniface Riels.

The Raiders ended up meeting the Riels in the MMJHL finals, winning the series four games to one to capture its first Jack McKenzie Trophy in 35 years.

"We loaned him to St. B for one year, which could have hurt us. It could have really bit us in the butt," said Raiders president and GM Lorne "Ned" Sanders.

"But it was the best thing for Ryan. He stayed in the league, he developed his craft and he came back to us a better goalie, and this year he’s just taken it to another level."

As of Feb. 23, Brown, who shares the Raiders net with Fiebelkorn, has a goals against average (GAA) of 2.44, second-best in the MMJHL. In 19 games, Brown has a record of 14 wins, three losses and two ties to go along with his .911 save percentage (SV%), which is seventh-best in the league.

Brown, 19, who grew up in Garden City, said he’s happy to be back with the Raiders.

"It was fun playing against the Raiders last year and over the summer it was a tough decision, because they’re both great organizations, but I wanted to play with my friends that I grew up with on the Raiders," Brown said.

The Raiders currently sit on top of the MMJHL standings, with a record of 30 wins, eight losses and five overtime losses through 43 games. Brown said practising against shooters like Tanner Magalas, whose 41 goals leads the Raiders and the league, has made him a better goalie.

Brown said he’s also learned a thing or two from Fiebelkorn, who sports a league best 2.05 GAA, .932 SV% and five shutouts.

"Just watching Fiebs in games you learn. He handles the puck great, which I want to improve on. He’s probably better than some skaters in the league," Brown said.

Brown, who is taking the electrical program at Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, started playing hockey at age five, first strapping on the pads at nine. He said he patterns his game after his favourite tender, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens.

Sanders sees a bit of Price’s competitive spirit in Brown’s game.

"The good goalies have that. Ryan doesn’t even like to get scored on in practice. He’s a real battler," Sanders said.

Brown, who started all five MMJHL final games for the Riels last season, said in addition to stopping the puck, he’s had to shrug off a few jabs from his fellow Raiders.

"Since it was all my buddies (last season’s Raiders team), after they won they heckled me a little bit," Brown said.

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